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Posts Tagged ‘chant’

Waking up
I breathe deeply to check in with my soul.
Am I alive? I mean, am I REALLY alive?
Can I move my body? Am I ready to do my ‘Dance of Emergence’?
Is my spirit ready for the day? Will today be a day for soaring, simply navigating, or crashing?

I love fully – always too fully.
Listening to the rhythm of the earth and all her inhabitants impacts me deeply
Chaos reigns
Values don’t make sense
The struggle to navigate makes breathing hard.
But then the angels appear. . .the angels always appear.

The world is challenging for someone who walks like me.
And yet,
every day I open my arms wide
reaching for the world I love
I say
Hineini
I am here to serve.

This is my journey in life.

When I give my smile or share my spirit, it is real. And when I feel grounded and safe in that connection I want it to last forever. Only it rarely does.

Over the years, I have learned that I am too intense for the world I live.  But instead of hiding behind what my gut feels, I honor myself by adhering to the words of Emile Zola, “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: “I am here to live out loud.”

This means that I show up to connect with friends, for meetings, political gatherings, or even the March For Our Lives as I did today. I show up even when I’d rather be in a quieter place. I also choose when I allow for the quiet, when I go into my own space so that I can create, daydream, or simply nurture my spirit.

Chava from behind with kippahFinding balance takes work. I say and do the things that jazz my soul, but also have the possibility of making a difference. I do this as a Jewish educator, a woman, an activist, a friend, a mother, a writer, and a  human being.

Living in the universe as I do means that I climb a lot of mountains only to stumble to keep my footing.  It also means that there are times I reach great heights and soar when I least expect it. The many moving parts of the world are relentless.

I pray with my feet as often as I can, never hiding who I am or what I believe.  At the same time, I am a seeker who chants, drums, meditates, and dreams. I am also an introvert that most people believe is an extrovert.

Actively living in the world and spending so much time navigating my work, my passions, my loved ones, and life has taken its toll. While I will keep my arms and heart open wide, I also struggle to find, to build, and to maintain sweet connections with those that consciously walk in the world. This has become a non-negotiable over the last several years.

I wasn’t always this way. In fact, I am not sure when it changed.

While I have always walked as I loved our world with all of the gifts and challenges that it brings, I used to care with a bit more detachment. And then about 20 years ago, something inside of me changed. I am not sure of the particular event or a triggered memory. But suddenly I couldn’t turn off my feelings with ease.  I wanted to learn more, do more, be more. Slowly I came to understand that I may never learn enough, do enough, be enough.

As a little girl, my mother truly believed I was limited. And as I grew, I believed that too. I hid behind good grades and a passion for learning, but I wasn’t able to absorb what was happening like other kids. I wasn’t articulate or good in math. I couldn’t remember the finer details of anything.  Over time, I learned to do the best I could do, but I wanted to do so much more. I wanted the capacity to synthesize all that I was learning into action and sharing for good.  I wanted to make a difference with my wisdom; I wanted to touch the world in huge ways.

Life took over. I learned to do what I could do. When something needed to be done, I did it. I always did what was asked of me. In my family, in my work, and in my community, I was the solid one. If you needed anything, I would show up and take care of things – and always with a smile.

Eventually, I started looking past the village that I was living. Ouch. Slowly, I dipped my toe into the larger world, the world outside myself. First, a homeless, pregnant woman with a toddler came to live with my family for nearly six months. That was the beginning of me realizing that there was so much to do. The more I learned, the more I realized that I just couldn’t do enough. EVERYTHING was calling to me – the environment, homelessness, the need to protect those that couldn’t protect themselves, and then the policies of Israel became more than I could bare to see/hear/read. Human rights, the environment, politics – everything mattered. Only I couldn’t do enough to make the world a better place. I still can’t. So I take one step and then another – knowing it is all a little too inadequate. But still, it is my job do what I can.

The last few years have been a time for learning and accepting the realities of not only my life, but the world I live. I’ve struggled to come to grips with how I walk in the world. I am blessed to be able to open my arms and do just a little for the family, community, and world that I love. I know that my smile and my warmth makes a difference – sometimes. But I also know that deep inside, I know that I am not done yet, I have more to do! I am not enough because I am not able to keep up with the world I live as I’d like. I am limited. With so much to absorb, I can’t make sense of it all.

  • How can we create a world with racial and economic equality?
  • How can the countries I love care so poorly for all of their inhabitants?
  • What can we learn from science to make our environment safer for all? Why does big business and the government continue to literally destroy the fabric or our world?
  • Guns – WTF should be done? AND what truths make sense? 17 people were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida; more are still struggling with their lives. People of color are at a disproportionately greater risk for violence – always.
  • How can our government have so many people that believe that hatred and white supremacy should be a guiding message?
  • Wasn’t our country made with immigrants? YET, all over the country, beautiful people are forced to rally and chant, “No Hate! No Fear! Immigrants are welcome here!”
  • We are so far away from taking care of the world we live in. Homelessness, veterans, domestic violence, animal cruelty, and ___________ – You fill in the blank. How can we do what we need to do in order to improve the world for our people?
  • . . . .and so much more.

With so much that needs to be done, I am not where I want to be, but the message I am hearing in my head is clear.  While I may not feel like I am enough, I am doing a little bit every day. AND on a good day, I do a lot more. Continuing the holy work of rolling up my sleeves is no option; there is still too much to do.  I may not feel like I am enough, but that doesn’t mean that I should stop doing what I am doing. And yes, I do realize that it is time for me to reframe my inner critic; I know I have some work to do.

MeFueling my spirit, I will continue on this journey. I will do what I can and eventually as I keep taking one step and then another, I will believe that I am enough.

My work, my writing, my beautiful nonprofit, and my warmth need to be my focus. So I will continue to do what I do best, wake up every morning with my arms and heart wide open. I show up. I am here. Hineini.

With love, light, hope, and blessings,
Chava

(Note: This rambling piece is following the amazing March For Our Lives which inspired me in every way, but also left me in a pool of tears. I wish their wasn’t still so much to do and yet, there are so many angels stepping up to do the work.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sun rise New Zealand May 5 Jai-Jagdeesh

Photo Courtesy of Jai-Jagdeesh via Instagram: jaijagdeesh

This I believe:

Illness and wake-up calls come when you need to listen to your body, your mind, and your soul. So when I finally listened to what my body was saying a few weeks ago, I went to the doctor who diagnosed me with bronchitis.

But 10 days later, I realized that I was still in bad shape and getting worse, so I went back only to receive the same diagnosis and a change in medicine. AND this time I realized that what I needed more than anything else was to stop and really rest.

But then something in the report caught my eye.

10/12/2017
Body Mass Index 30+ – Obesity; Bronchitis

Ouch!!!

As a past runner and someone who is totally conscious of my health, I am so aware that  something has to change; I’ve known this for a very long time. In fact, I started a serious health journey 45 days before my 45th birthday. That journey was amazing and changed my relationship with food. I took off nearly 65 lbs and I have kept nearly every pound off for over 6 years. But now I need to begin again and take the rest of my weight off.

As someone who is basically healthy, I strongly believe there is no excuse for “obesity”. This isn’t about looks (except that I HATE my double-chin); this is about becoming the healthiest that I can be. In fact this entire year has become about becoming the healthiest I can be.

Needing to have back surgery in early April was the first very loud message, but then there were others. So with that in mind, I am actively taking the words of my dear soul sister, Arlene Berger and the Torah, “Choose Life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). If I want to thrive and to be the healthiest that I can be, I have to consciously life into my realm. I love knowing that while Arlene and I live in different cities, we are on this journey together.

I have 123 days or 4 months between now and my 52nd birthday. And I have goals of what I want for my body, my mind, and my soul. I do believe that light is surrounding each and every step of this journey.

This health journey is not only about weight, although I do need to manage my weight better in order to be one step closer to better health. There is also such beautiful spiritual and emotional work that is calling my name.

I got this.

As I own my health journey, know that what is listed, is some of my current soul work and some new things based on my doctor’s notes and his feedback when we met this past summer. My goal is to be the healthiest I can be – body, mind, and soul. And while I am being transparent, I’d love to have your support, but I am conscious that too much good advice can be a bad thing. If I let you know that something I am choosing to do is a non-negotiable, please don’t try to convince me that I am wrong.

So, here is my list:

  1. Go dairy and meat free! I am considering whether or not I will continue eating eggs and fish. I think that I will be removing fish from my diet after tonight because we purchased salmon for tonight’s Shabbat dinner. (Note: I have been virtually meat free for many years so meat free is not a big deal. 🙂 AND I will be working with Weight Watchers guidelines.)
  2. Prepare three new vegan recipes a week. Take time to enjoy living a more healthy lifestyle.
  3. No added sugar to my diet. I will continue having fruit and sometimes fruit juices with no added sugar. I know this has sugar, but I am doing it anyway.
  4. Allow for more silence in my life. Breathe a little deeper.
  5. One of my favorite quotes by Franz Kafka is “Writing is prayer.” With this in mind, I want to surround my life with more spirituality through my writing.
  6. Do more soul work! Hoping and praying that I can touch people’s lives with Door l’Door. https://door-ldoor.blogspot.com/
  7. Exercise more – this includes walking 7-10 miles daily and/or finding a piece of equipment to do daily at home. I am thinking about an elliptical. Thoughts?
  8. Politically and spiritually, there is so much work that our world needs me/us to do. With this in mind, I want to listen to the wisdom of one of my favorite songs in the world, “Keep On Moving Forward” by Emma’s Revolution.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtiXT5c5jBQ
  9. Live my truths without apology. Allow for my authenticity to shine.
  10. Chant, Drum, and Dance

By choosing to do this holy work, I am choosing to fuel my soul. I guess my soul sister can’t tell me I am ignoring her wisdom!

Time to get to work!

 

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with
your one wild and precious life.”
– “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

July - sun 1

Reflection Time Selfie

Each morning, I wake up and ask myself how I will walk through my day.  And each and every day, the answer is pretty much the same. I want to be a light with every step I take.

Now this isn’t as easy as it sounds. What does it mean to be a light? And what do I have to do to get there?

The second question is easier to answer, so I will start with that. In order to be a light to anyone I have to be a light to myself. That means before I reach out to the world around me, I have to go inward and care for my body, my mind, and my soul.  If I don’t take care of me, how can I be authentic with others?

Writing, listening to the others’ wisdom, moving and eating right are key. On a really good day, I will chant, meditate, or drum.  And on a great day, I will do it all! Breathing deeply and living mindfully takes an open heart and a willing spirit.

In fact, most of what I try to do is to live consciously. My entire being craves a conscious life. I want to live with integrity and authenticity.  So for the most part, I do that. AND every day I am learning, stretching, and growing. I am working to be the best me I can be.

Only after I navigate inward can I take an excursion outward.

So to answer the first question:  What does it mean to be a light?

A ready smile greets nearly every person I meet. I have a drive to touch people’s lives in positive ways. This feeling has emanated so deeply that years ago I even changed my last name to Gal-Or, wave of light.

Life has taught me that some of my best plans and my most amazing intentions need to altered due to reality.

When my older son was a teenager, he was plagued with a life and death journey which took over our family’s entire lives for over three and a half years. This meant that everything in my world changed over night and stayed that way until one day I realized he was thriving again!

Shortly after that episode, I woke up to a joyous pitter-patter in my heart. With an overwhelming realization, I realized that I am alive and ready to serve others again. Hineini! I am here!!

While I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, I slowly began to realize that the years of hell inspired me to live a little more like there may be no tomorrow. With that came a new zest for life and a deep passion in my kishka, my guts. Over the coming days, months, and years, that passion has become part of my life force.

Returning back to the Mary Oliver quote above, I have grown to trust where my heart and soul take me. Living a conscious life means that I have work to do not only for myself, but for others.

With each step I take in the world, I really do it with the best intention. That doesn’t mean it is always received with open arms, but it does mean that I am standing in the integrity that is part of my core essence.

Sharing my thoughts and values is the only way I know to inspire change and to empower others. That doesn’t mean that I am always right or that I don’t frustrate or anger those who feel differently. Everyday, I am challenged to stand in the light even when it isn’t easy.

With views that are often off the beaten path or different from mainstream thinking, I have to negotiate the world with kindness. I also have to make sure that I am educated and thoughtful as I navigate conversations and writing. And sometimes, I have to receive the passion of others.

While passion isn’t always full of light, my work is be the light and always remember that I want every “wild and precious day” to live consciously and thoughtfully.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5776, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-1Nm.)

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun - Easel

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun – Tucson, Arizona

There is one way that you will know if I am in a spiritually grounded place. Just one. . . . . If creative projects fill my time or even my mind. I am probably exactly where I need to be.

As long as I am taking time to write, drum, paint, doodle, chant, or move, you can assume life is good. AND when I take time to go to museums, check-out cool neighborhoods, or people watch, you can also make an assumption that I am doing well.

My spirit needs to share space with sizzling energy and emerging innovations.

Creative souls jazz my world. If someone is passionate about some form of creativity, I usually fall in love with them, energetically that is.

Over the years, I have often found myself tearing when I witness beauty or creativity. I can’t seem to stop the release that comes when I see or hear something that deeply touches me.

When I lived in Tucson, I used to go to the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun which was literally around the corner from my house. Every time I saw the easel above, I would want to curl up into a ball and weep. I believe that some of that comes from my sadness that I want to be more of an artist than I am, but it is also because I adore that worn look and obviously beloved easel.

In the last several years, I have begun to go to museums alone so that I can take the time to fully appreaciate the energy  (and yes cry without navigating the reaction of others). Most recently, I have felt the incredible wave of emotion nearly everytime I see one of Mark Rothko paintings or when I go to the Rothko chapel close to where I live in Houston. I am not such an art connoisseur that I understand exactly why I have this reaction, but nonetheless it is what happens. Another time, many years ago, I couldn’t contain myself when I was at a Salvador Dali exhibit in Philadelphia.  The only  way to explain what seems to be happening is that my heart simply breaks open.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Quote by Henry David Thoreau

May we all me inspired by the beauty not only surrounds us, also what comes from within.

Onward with love & light,
Chava

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Polish-Slovakian border - Stephanie Randall

Polish-Slovakian border: Courtesy of Stephanie Randall

Not all those who wander are lost.’*

I wander a lot; I explore the world with every movement and every breath; I seek answers to questions that seem insurmountable, only to find the answer in a prayer or a chant.  On many of my excursions, I am not sure where I am going or how I will get there. Other times I think I know where I am going only to be end up somewhere completely unexpected.

All I know for certain is that I am on a journey. All of us are. With each step, I am trying to walk gently while being the most authentic that I can be. In those same moments, I am fumbling to understand the world I live in with all the wild landscapes that encompass each step.

While I often feel like I have a choice on how to get from point A to point B, more likely I am guided.  My feet may appear to move as if they have direction, but that is rarely the case. Mostly I look at my life as moments of Lech Lecha-ing; a gentle guide or teacher emerges to make sure I make it to the best possible place.

Sometimes I feel like I am tripping over my own two feet, but what I am actually doing is finding solid ground in the best way I know how. There is no straight and smooth path to take me from where I am; the path is rocky and sometimes quite daunting.

Just when I think I can’t take another step, I remember to breathe. Only once I take a deep breathe do I find that I have what it takes to continue with yet another step. Breathing deeply reminds me to see the beauty that surrounds me wherever I am.

I am alive; I am thriving; I am reaching; I am being exactly who I am. Halleluyah.

*”Not all those who wander are lost.” – probably inspired or written by J. R. R. Tolkien for his poem called “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter” for his fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings.

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I am hard on myself. I never believe that I am enough, that I give enough, that I am present enough. This is especially true for doing my part to repair the world (tikun olam) or to stand up for the politics I believe in.

Instead of lamenting about what I could have or should have done before this time, I have decided to begin doing what I can now. This actually started weeks ago, but over the last days, I have really been called to action.

Here I am; I am here to serve you!

Here I am; I am here to serve you!

 On Wednesday night, two things happened that nudged me out of my inertia.

  1. Nine beautiful souls were massacred at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
  2. A devastating fire in the San Bernadino National Forest near where my son is working in Angelus Oaks, California forced the staff to evacuate from where they were camping. For this moment, the camp is safe, but all is not looking good for that area. At this point 17,000 acres has been destroyed and the staff only have the belongings that they had on their overnight. I am happy that the residents and firefighters are safe at this point; may that continue! I am devastated for the wildlife.

The visceral reaction that I had initially shifted to a deep desire to ‘do something’.  By Thursday, I asked my chant group for possible chants so that we could shift the energy, I created resource sheets for comforting those in mourning, those affected by the deaths, and for the wildfires too.

Nearly every waking moment since Wednesday, I have chanted, prayed, visualized, healing for all in need. I haven’t been able to sleep or eat much either. I have allowed a few tears to fall and my heart to crack open.

And yesterday, I called a local reverend to ask if he would mind if I joined his upcoming vigil. I also emailed my rabbi to see if she would be willing to have my new congregation host a shloshim* gathering for the local AME church. Regardless, I will be reaching out to them myself and finding out if perhaps I can organize a mandala making gathering so that we could send cards or mandalas to each and every member/family of the Charleston church.

The bottom-line is I am a tree hugger and a lover of all life-force. I may not be able to do much, but I can do something. There is a part of me that is simply not able to sit back and do nothing.

Over the years, I have been inspired by people that make a difference. Today, I have the ability to touch lives. Just because I have yet to do enough for others doesn’t mean I have to stay on that trajectory.

Politically, I plan to find my voice over the coming year for the upcoming elections, gun control, and the environment. Next summer, I am hoping to find a trip that will allow for me to learn more and have a greater impact in American policy towards Israel. I live in Houston, Texas now; it is my time to step up to the plate. I can’t hide from being involved any longer.

It is also time for me to celebrate that my life is quite amazing. My sons are healthy young men that are beginning their launch into adulthood. During much of their growing years, I was absorbed with their healing from serious illnesses. (They are both healthy now.) And in recent years, I had some of my own personal challenges to contend with.  But it is important for me to remember that I rarely sat back and did nothing. There were years when I volunteered in shelters weekly, took in a homeless family for six months, did work for the environment, stood strong for Israel, worked towards eliminating modern-day slave labor, and did my part for local and national politics. BUT I truly have not done enough and I am ok with that. As long as I stand by the below equation now:

KNOWLEDGE + VOLITION + ACTION = RESULTS**

After my older son healed from serious illness, I had a false start and thought I would do more, but it wasn’t my time. I have to find peace with that reality. I am not the same person I was then. I have faced a few more demons, fear of homelessness, and what it means to work for a hourly wage. Both my spirit and my body were seriously impacted by what happened to me in Tucson, but I am thriving now.  Still, Tucson gave me one of the most precious gifts imaginable, it gave me the ability to hear differently and the determination to help others.

So, here I am. Hineini. I am here to serve others, to impact the world for good, and to weave my words so that others may be drawn to reflect, to stretch, and to grow.

With every fiber of my being, I pray that my actions and my words do their part for tikun olam, repairing the world, while I walk gently and lovingly with each step.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

Notes:
*In traditional Judaism, the first 30 days after someones burial is for intense mourning. For this situation, I am thinking we could mark 30 days after the massacre and create a healing ritual.

** This equation was originally found from Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., but I do think I have seen it elsewhere as well.

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Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom. For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]

Creating Your Makom Kadosh,
Your Sacred Place

pet-rock

As a writer, I have always fallen in love with sweet nooks that inspire my words to flow.

Until the last few years, I would plop myself down anywhere and write, but that isn’t the case now. But during my two-year Kol Zimra, Chant Leader’s Training with Rabbi Shefa Gold, my relationship to space changed. During this amazing series of workshops in New Mexico, I began to appreciate how creating a spiritual space enhanced my ability to dig deeper within myself allowing me to ultimately pull out ideas and thoughts worthy of sharing with others. I also began to understand that if I surrounded myself with beauty and calm energy, my entire spirit would soar.

My spirituality has developed significantly now that I am more cognizant of my surroundings. Today not only do I spend time writing, but I also take the time to chant, drum, dance, and pray. I think about my space when I eat, cook, read, and simply take time to breathe. Surrounding myself with what resonates within me enables me to a happier and calmer person.

Many moving parts combined create a sacred space for me. Over the years, I have learned that less is more. I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist exactly, but I aspire to surround myself with only that which jazzes my soul. I want to love each of every fiber within my space. I am sensitive to colors, lighting, textures, smells. In the background, I always have a sense of the sounds; sometimes I want to hear nigunim (wordless melodies), sometimes chanting, sometimes rock, sometimes folk, and sometimes the sounds of the outdoors is perfect for my spirit. There are times I want to listen and times I want to sing, but I creatively ignite when hearing the songs and melodies that touch me deeply.

Years ago, I also discovered that life needs be part of my surroundings. Plants, flowers, herbs, and animals only enhance my mood. There is something heart-warming about being enveloped by life or by natural beauty.  My disposition tends to do better when I am around earthiness.

With all of this in mind, I am so looking forward to moving to Houston in ten days where I can establish a nurturing foundation that embraces who I am and where I can feel at home with my soul.

In my heart, I believe that in order to be content with what is, each of us need to love wherever we are standing or work towards whatever it is that we think we feel would be right for us.

Think about it, what do you need in order to make your personal space sacred.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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